At six months pregnant, Ned sent Abby ahead to her parents’ house for a visit while he packed up the truck for their cross-country move. As newlyweds, he didn’t realize they had accumulated more stuff than would fit in the 16-foot moving van and found himself having to give away household and personal items.
A couple years later, he realized some of Abby’s stuff had more value to her than possessions—they held cherished memories. Because she had moved around numerous times growing up, she had sentimental attachments to some of her childhood furniture. Realizing some things aren’t replaceable, Ned contacted friends who had received the articles in hopes of buying them back and returning some of her treasured items. He wasn’t concerned at the cost, but was willing to pay the price to recover the items. Even though he discovered they couldn’t be returned for various reasons, Abby’s heart was touched by Ned’s thoughtfulness and attempt to regain them.
Sacrifices that Last a Lifetime
Just as the Church is the bride of Christ and benefits from His sacrifice on our behalf (1 John 3:16), marriage is full of opportunities where we are faced with choosing to sacrifice for the benefit of our spouse. Even though it may feel painful at times, may go unnoticed or appreciated, or seems like we’re losing more than we’re gaining, our marriages are enriched in a number of ways. Especially important are the sacrifices we choose to make early on in our marriages, as these choices not only help to establish a strong foundation in marriage, but also set the tone for years to come. Rewards for decisions made early on are sometimes not realized until years later—sacrifices that bring long-term positive results to both partners’ lives.
Three days after Brandon and Keri’s honeymoon, she started graduate school in their new location. As a new husband, he didn’t see his bride much.
“Brandon never made me feel guilty about being gone most days and many nights,” says Keri. “He never complained about the piles of laundry or the fact that we rarely shared a meal. He supported my schooling and encouraged me to take the time I needed to accomplish this goal.”
Brandon also recognized the importance for Keri to cultivate friendships in her new setting and encouraged her to spend time making friends. And, even though money was tight, he wanted her to attend their church’s women’s retreats.
A few years later, Keri says the role is a bit reversed. As a Pastor of Student Ministries, Brandon has more responsibilities at church, along with speaking engagements at various retreat events. “When I’m tempted to complain and insist he scale back,” says Keri, “I remember the sacrifices he made me so I could focus on my schooling for a season.” Remembering how he responded to Keri is helping her to be more flexible when he comes home a little late. She also encourages him to spend time with the guys or go see a movie, and supports his ministry through her prayers and encouragement.
The Sacrifice of Leaving and Cleaving
When my husband and I were first married, his uncle’s funeral fell on the same day I was scheduled to get my tonsils removed. His mom thought he needed to attend the funeral and he didn’t want to disappoint his family. I really wanted him to be at the hospital with me, but didn’t want to insist on it, yet hoped he would make that choice on his own. He helped me check into the hospital the night before and we said our goodnight. Waking up the next morning, I felt alone in the room wishing my husband was there. Not long after my wishful thoughts, I rolled over to discover him sitting by my hospital bed dressed in his black suit.
Surprised to see him, I said, “I thought you were going to the funeral?”
“I was,” he answered, “but I need to be here with you.”
It meant a lot to me that he sacrificed his standing with his mom and family, choosing instead to be by my side before surgery, giving me support. It helped to establish a trust between us that we would keep our commitment to be with each other through “better and worse” and in “sickness and health.” It was also an important step toward us leaving mother and father and cleaving to each other.
Sacrifice’s Ultimate Good
C. S. Lewis wrote, “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” Christ’s sacrifice is the example of love aimed at giving ultimate good. As in Ned and Abby, Brandon and Keri, and my own marriage, sacrificial love is essential in building a strong foundation. Practicing it on a daily basis helps to develop a compassionate and understanding heart, and deepens commitment to each other.